Brain cancer is a life threatening ailment of the brain wherein carcinogenic cells (malignant) develop within the brain tissue. In effect, the cancer cells develop to take the shape of a mass of cancer tissue, also known as a tumour, which obstructs the functioning of the brain, for instance, in controlling the muscles, memory, sensation as well as other usual activities of the body.
The tumours that are made of carcinogenic cells are known as malignant tumours, while those that are mostly made up of non-cancerous cells are known as benign tumours. It is worth mentioning here that cancerous cells that have their origin in the brain tissue are known as primary brain tumour, while tumours that extend from other parts of the body to the brain are known as metastatic brain tumours.
However, it is important to note that even if they develop from the same kind of brain tissue, all brain tumours are not similar. In effect, the tumours are categorized into different grade conditional on the nature in which the cancer cells look under a microscope. In addition, the different grades of tumours also give us a perception regarding the pace of the cells’ growth. The following grades have been listed by the National Cancer Institute:
Grade I: In this stage, the tissue comprises non-cancerous cells (benign). These cells almost resemble the standard brain cells and they multiply quite leisurely.
Grade II: In this stage, the tissue turns malignant, denoting that it comprises cancerous cells. In this case too, the cells appear less similar to the normal brain cells compared to those in Grade I tumour.
Grade III: In this stage, the malignant tissue comprises cells that are very dissimilar in appearance compared to the normal brain cells. These anomalous cells have a rapid growth and appear noticeably anomalous (also known as anaplastic).
Grade IV: In this stage, the malignant tissue comprises cells that have a very anomalous appearance and they are also inclined to multiply very rapidly.
The most widespread basic brain tumours generally derive their name from the type of brain tissue they develop from. These primary brain tumours include meningiomas, gliomas, vestibular schwannomas, pituitary adenomas and primitive neuroectodermal tumours (also known as medulloblastomas). The primary brain tumours called gliomas are again categorized into several sub-types including astrocytomas, ependymomas, oligodendrogliomas and choroid plexus papillomas.
Together with their name, the different grades of tumour provide the physicians with an enhanced perception regarding the gravity of the brain cancer. For instance, while a grade III or anaplastic glioma is known to be a very belligerent form of brain cancer, an acoustic neuroma is actually a grade I benign brain tumour. Nevertheless, it may be noted that people enduring benign tumours may also experience immense troubles when they develop sufficiently big to bring about an augmented intracranial pressure or hinder flow of cerebrospinal fluid or the vascular arrangements.
While there are very few visible symptoms of brain cancer in the initial stages, the most familiar indications of this deadly disease may include headaches, debility, problems in walking and fits. People enduring the early stages of brain cancer may also experience queasiness, vomiting, blurred vision or some kind of alteration in their cerebral ability, attentiveness, memory, talking or even behaviour. However, even people who are not suffering from brain cancer may experience any of the symptoms mentioned here.
Besides, no one is able to envisage from any of these symptoms, either individually or a number of them together, that an individual is suffering from brain cancer. It is also worth mentioning here that cancer may develop in any part of the brain – for instance, frontal, occipital, temporal lobes or parietal, brainstem or the meningeal membranes. There are some types of brain cancer, although very few in number, that usually produce a small number of or no symptoms at all – for instance, pituitary gland tumours and meningeal tumours.
Thus far, scientists are yet to find out the precise reason for the development of brain cancer. Sometimes, other forms of cancers, such as breast cancer; leukemia or lymphoma (cancers related to the blood cells) and/ or lung cancer may also spread (technically known as metastasizing) to the brain resulting in metastatic brain cancer. These types of brain cancer cells have the aptitude to subsequently develop in a particular area or several different areas within the brain.
While the exact cause of brain cancer is yet to be ascertained, scientists have identified certain risk factors that may result in the development of brain cancer. These risk factors include exposure of the patient to vinyl chloride (a chemical substance utilized to manufacture plastic), radiation to the head on any previous occasion, and immunosuppression – for instance taking medications to restrain the immune system, HIV/ AIDS.
Supplements and herbs
By and large, using herbs is a very safe means to fortify as well as harmonize the various systems of our body. Like in the instance of any other type of treatment, it is essential for you to consult your physician or healthcare provider before you begin treatment with any herbal medicine.
There are specific herbs that help to perk up the functioning of the brain. For instance, ginkgo biloba helps to augment the cerebral capabilities in patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, German scientists who undertook a study of the effect of ginkgo and published their findings in the medical journal BMC Geriatrics in March 2010 came to the conclusion that the effects of the herb were discreet.
On the other hand, the Natural Standard, a shared research platform where contemporaries appraise the testimony for alternative therapies, assumes that there is proof supporting the use of ginkgo for people in the initial stage of dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, it also says that it is yet to be ascertained if ginkgo has the aptitude to augment the memory in people who are in their best health. In addition, it has been found that ginkgo biloba has the potential to interact with a number of drugs, including aspirin, and, hence, it should always be used under the supervision of a physician or qualified healthcare provider.
Traditionally, it is believed that in addition to assisting in easing stress, Panax ginseng – also known as Asian, Korean or red ginseng, enhances the memory as well as thinking skills. Citing preliminary research, the University of Maryland Medical Center hints that ginseng may possibly facilitate memory as well as learning in ailing elderly people and also those who are in the pink of their health. At the same time, it says that there is a need for further studies on this subject. It has been found that ginseng has the potential to interact with an assortment of drugs and, therefore, it is advisable that you take this herb only under the direct guidance of qualified medical professionals.
Since long, practitioners of the stream of ancient Indian herbal medicine called Ayurveda have been recommending the use of Bacopa monniera, generally known as brahmi, to enhance the functioning of the brain. The findings of a double-blind, placebo-controlled research which were published in the August 2002 edition of Neuropsychopharmacology, claimed that Australian scientists detected that when the subjects who took brahmi were tested, they were found to be considerably better and were able to retain new information much better.
However, the use of the supplement did not exhibit any influence on additional tests undertaken to find the herb’s effect on learning and cognition. Like most other herbs, even brahmi has the aptitude to interact with a number of convention drugs and, therefore, it should always be used under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional or physician.
Folklore as well as aromatherapists suggests that In case your attention is not fixed and your concentration is turned down, you will benefit immensely by chewing peppermint gum, consuming candy prepared from peppermint and inhaling peppermint oil. It is worth mentioning here that there is some scientific data that corroborates the use of peppermint to perk up your alertness and memory.
The essential trace mineral selenium is a potent antioxidant which is beneficial for people enduring brain tumours. It may be noted that several oncologists are of the view that using any dietary supplement that is graded as an antioxidant may possibly obstruct the competence of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to eliminate the cancer cells.
While this hypothesis appears to be reasonable, there is very little published scientific evidence that corroborates this view. In fact, selenium possesses the aptitude to slow down the propagation as well as aggression of carcinogenic cells. At the same time, this trace mineral helps to encourage apoptosis (programmed cell death) in a range of brain tumour cells, counting the malignant cell lines.
In addition to selenium, vitamin E is also a very potent antioxidant and is especially effective in treating brain cancer. The findings of a study undertaken in 2005 says that the use of alpha-tocopherol-succinate augments the chemotherapy cure of glioblastoma cells, which are generally resistant to drugs, thereby, enhancing the efficiency of chemotherapy.
Use of dietary supplements may also help us in dealing with nutritional deficiencies. For this you may need work together with herbalists and nutritionists to chalk out a complete program for cancer care. However, you ought to bear in mind that your need to tell your physician regarding all nutritional treatments and herbal medications that you are already using.
This is important because there are many nutritional supplements that may get in the way of cancer treatments and every time there is plenty of new information available on this topic. Some of the supplements that you may use to address nutritional deficiencies are discussed briefly below.
Omega-3 fatty acids
You may find using omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, useful in lessening the inflammation associated with brain cancer and also in boosting the immune system. For utmost benefits, take this supplement in dosage of one to two capsules or one tablespoonful of the oil once or twice every day. It may be mentioned that cold water fish, for instance halibut and salmon, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is important to talk to your physician or healthcare provider prior to taking supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids because they have the potential to enhance the blood thinning consequences of specific medications, for instance, aspirin and Coumadin.
Using probiotic supplements, especially those that contain Lactobacillus acidophilus in dosage of 5 to 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) every day helps in sustaining the health of the gastrointestinal as well as immune system. To obtain the best results of using probiotic supplements, it is essential that you store them in a refrigerator. However, before you start taking the probiotic supplements, it is important to consult your physician to determine whether they are suitable for you.
It is advisable that you take melatonin in dosage of 2 mg to 6 mg before retiring for the day, as it will help to enhance the health of the immune system and also promote sound sleep. People suffering from brain cancer may require a higher dosage of this nutritional supplement. Nevertheless, remember to talk to your physician or healthcare provider before you start taking melatonin, as it has the aptitude to interact with a range of medications that may include blood thinning medicines, antidepressants, psychiatric drugs, blood pressure medications, sedatives and many more.
People suffering from brain cancer may find aromatherapy beneficial for their condition. You may blend the essential oils of lavender (botanical name, Lavendula angustifolia), chamomile (botanical name, Matricaria recutita) and bergamot (botanical name, Citrus bergamia) for use in aromatherapy. Add some drops of this combination of essential oils in a warm bath. Alternately, you may also add four to six drops of these essential oils to one tablespoon of vegetable oil and use it for massage.
In addition to using the conventional medicines and aromatherapy, specific homeopathic remedies may also be effective in easing the symptoms of this condition. For instance, a knowledgeable homeopathic physician may recommend a treatment schedule to support the general health while one is enduring brain cancer and this regimen would be individualized for your case only.
In addition, using homeopathic remedies may assist in lessening the symptoms of the condition and, at the same time, make the general constitution of the patient stronger, lessen the consequences of strain throughout the period one is suffering from cancer and may possibly also reduce the side effects of undergoing chemotherapy. It may be noted here that Radium Bromatum is especially taken for treating poisoning caused by radiation therapy, mainly after arthritic complaints.
Besides the homeopathic remedy mentioned above, there are several others that are useful in treating the symptoms of brain cancer. These homeopathic remedies include Calcaria carb., Kali brom., Plumbum met., Belladonna, Cicuta virosa, Argentum nitricum and several additional remedies.
Additional things you may do
In addition to the different treatment modes discussed above, people suffering from brain cancer may also do a few more things to ease their symptoms. Acupuncture is one such treatment approach that may benefit people enduring this deadly condition. Although acupuncture is not employed for treating cancer directly, there are evidences that hint at the fact that this mode of treatment may prove to be an important remedy for symptoms related to cancer, especially vomiting and nausea, which frequently occurs while the patient undergoes chemotherapy.
Several studies also suggest that acupuncture may possibly assist in lessening the pain and ease shortness of breath. In addition, acupressure, a therapeutic approach wherein pressure is applied at specific points in the body instead of using needles at the acupuncture points, may also assist in easing breathlessness. The best part of acupuncture is that the patient himself/ herself may use this method to cure themselves.
A number of acupuncture professionals like to work with the patients only after the conventional medical treatment for cancer has been completed. On the other hand, there are others who will offer herbal therapy or acupuncture even during the period the patient is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In general, most acupuncture professionals treat cancer patients depending on a personalized evaluation of the surplus and dearth of qi to be found in different meridians. In several incidences of symptoms associated with cancer, deficiency of qi is generally identified in the meridians located in the kidney or the spleen.
When we talk about an all-inclusive regimen for brain cancer, we actually denote a variety of harmonizing as well as alternative remedies. Several physicians, who are naturally oriented, are of the view that herbs as well as nutrients may possibly provide us protection from the side effects of the conventional medical treatments, and also improve chemotherapy, while supporting all other anti-cancer actions.
There are other physicians, who are worried that specific natural remedies are likely to get in the way of the conventional therapies for cancer. Hence, it is essential that the patients not only educate themselves, but also tell their physicians or healthcare providers regarding all the treatments – including conventional, natural and alternative, that they are already using.
It is worth mentioning here that undertaking mind-body therapies, for instance, relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga as well as qi gong, may help in lessening the consequences of strain and, simultaneously, improve the quality of your life as well as your reaction to the treatment. It is advisable that you talk to your physician or the medical team treating you regarding the most excellent means to include these therapies into your general treatment plan for brain cancer. At the same time, ensure that you tell your physician and/ or healthcare providers if you are already using any herbal medicine or dietary supplements for your condition.
In addition, you may also incorporate some nutritional methods that will facilitate you in getting relief from the symptoms related to cancer. A few such nutritional tips are listed below for your perusal and necessary actions.
Consume lesser quantities of red meats, while increasing the intake of cold water fish, lean meats, beans or tofu (for example, soy, provided you do not have allergic reactions from it) for protein. Ensure that you use protein obtained from quality sources, for instance, eggs, meat, whey as well as vegetable protein shakes, which all would form a balanced program intended to increase muscle mass and also put off wasting – an adverse effect of different cancer therapies.
You should also make an endeavour to keep away from supposed food allergens like wheat (gluten), dairy (including milk, ice cream and cheese), corn, soy, all preservatives as well as chemicals used as food additives. It is possible that your physician or healthcare provider would want you to undergo a test to detect the foods which cause allergic reactions in you.
At the same time, you should use wholesome oil for all culinary purposes, for instance any good vegetable oil or olive oil. It is also important that you lessen or completely get rid of trans fatty acids, present in commercially available baked items like cakes, cookies, onion rings, crackers, French fries, processed foods, donuts and margarine. Also keep away from all products containing caffeine and stop using any stimulants, such as tobacco and alcohol.
Exercise is important for people suffering from brain cancer and they should preferably work-out five days every week. However, they need to consult their physician prior to starting an exercise regimen.